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ElizebethFriedman

America’s chief WWII codebreaker, language and dialect in Appalachia, new season for Serial; newsletter, September 14, 2018

This newsletter was emailed to everyone on Jim’s email list (x) on August 30, 2018 At this writing, a major hurricane is about to slam into the east coast of the U.S., and predictions are that it will cost lives and do great damage. In the middle of this past week, as we were traveling […]

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Cades Cove in winter, watercolor

Appalachian language and other myths about the region

You’ve probably heard this rural legend (as opposed to urban legend): The people of Appalachia speak a dialect of English that harkens back to the English of Chaucer; it’s older even than the English of Shakespeare. No, they don’t. Just as everyone else’s English has done, the English of rural Appalachia has constantly evolved and […]

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FrancesHBurnett

A 19th century writer-rock star, King James’ obsession, costly commas, and the Clinton impeachment revisited: newsletter, Sept. 7, 2018

This newsletter was emailed to everyone on Jim’s email list (x) on August 30, 2018 Too much good stuff to read, too little time. I am in the middle of an excellent novel by a well-known author at the moment, and I will tell you about it in a week or two. I’ve also started […]

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King James I, perpetrator of a Biblical translation, hunter of witches

The famous opening scene of The Tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare begins with the speeches of three witches. They predict what will happen in the play, but they are more than a dramatic device. They were a very pointed and obvious political statement. That statement — something of a cheerleader’s “We’re with you all […]

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WillWadLongfellow

The long life of Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride”

When William Wadsworth Longfellow wrote “Paul Revere’s Ride” in 1860 and published it in The Atlantic in the January 1861 issue, he had a goal in mind. He wanted to create a clarion call to his fellow citizens to recognize the danger to the Republican by the secession of Southern states and for those citizens […]

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PaulRevere

Paul Revere, road warrior and speed king

File this under The American Road, History Division. Paul Revere, we all know, is famous for riding through the night of April 18-19, 1775, spreading the alarm “to every Middlesex village and farm,” letting everyone know that the British Army, too, was hitting the road, and things were about to turn nasty. (More on that […]

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1

John Singer Sargent: combat artist in World War I

In 1918, John Singer Sargent, 62, was a world-renowned artist, a man famous for his vision, technique, and talent. He could easily have turned down the request from the British government that he go to France and to produce a piece of artwork that would commemorate the alliance between Britain and America that would eventually […]

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2018-07-04 16.12.04_preview

Route 66: the road and the television show

Our recent trek to the West took us along the old Route 66, nicknamed the Mother Road for its role in getting people to a new life during the Depression and giving people the pleasure of a road trip in the two decades after that. All along Interstate 40 — some of which was built […]

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20134v

Two failures who save each other – and then saved the nation (part 2)

The battle of  Shiloh during two April days in 1862 proved to William Tecumseh Sherman that he could be what he always wanted to be – a success. See Two failures who save each other – and then saved the nation (part 1). Sherman had not been successful at very much during his adult life. […]

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Queen Mary: the myth and a somewhat more balanced reality

In a newsletter earlier this year, I had an entry on the phrase “Bloody Mary” and mentioned that the drink to which it refers was named after Queen Mary, daughter of Henry VIII, who persecuted Protestants in an attempt to return England to Catholicism. A newsletter reader, Frank C., wrote to say that this “persecution” was […]

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JohnTrumbull

Top 10 books about gangsters, Trumbull’s portrait of Washington, and hurricane news: newsletter, July 13, 2018

This newsletter was emailed to everyone on Jim’s email list (3,197) on July 13, 2018 Hiding in plain sight in the American psyche is the concept of The Road. The Great American Highway is not just a tool to get from place to another. It’s an indelible symbol of the freedom to move, the sense […]

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WoodrowWilson

The Great War, Woodrow Wilson, and the savaging of the idea of America

Wilson, in declaring war on Germany in 1917, also declared war on a good portion of America as well.

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ClaudeChappe

A telegraph network 50 years before the telegraph – le systeme Chappe

A full half-century before Samuel Morse demonstrated his electric telegraph system in America, a long-distance and extremely effective communication network existed in France. The network was developed by Claude Chappe (1763-1805), a scientist who realized that the human eye was an excellent device for discerning angles, even at long distances. He took that idea and developed […]

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Mr. Whicher

Criticizing the police, from the very beginning

Criticizing the police and their methods — and defending them — has never been out of fashion. It’s been part of the social fabric since the Metropolitan Police Force was officially organized in London in 1829 by Sr. Robert Peel. In America, the criticisms often involve race. In Great Britain of the 19th century, the […]

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Charles Willson Peale (caricature)

Charles Willson Peale and the image of the American Revolution

A big part of George Washington’s image was, well, Washington’s image. What Washington looked like was essential — more important than we probably understand — to what we think of him and ultimately how we think of America. The American revolutionaries of the 18th century understood that very well. It was an age well before […]

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Sam Ervin, chairman of the Senate Watergate Committee

Slow Burn: a podcast series about Watergate

If you lived through the Watergate crisis (1972-1974), you probably remember a lot about what happened and about the major characters, such as John Dean, Richard Nixon, John Ehrlichman, etc. And you probably remember how it felt to have a new development in the story just about every day. It was an interesting, often thrilling, […]

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George Frederick Handel

Handel was washed up – then came Messiah

Handel, who had lived in England for more than a quarter of a century. had never really ruled the operatic circles of London. It is too tough of a town for that. But the German-born musical genius had led his faction, and they loved him for it. By the mid-1730s, however, Handel had begun to lose […]

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Landing Zone by

The distrust engendered by Vietnam did not begin with the American people; it began with the American government

Proof of the government’s lies about Vietnam can be found in many people, most notably a set of documents that government officials put together while the war was still being fought that we know as the Pentagon Pap

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The Chandos portrait

Shakespeare’s appearance remains a mystery – but we have lots of clues

We have a general idea of what William Shakespeare looked like, but we do not have a confirmed contemporary portrait of him. Like many other things about The Bard, his appearance remains a mystery.

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Jackie Kennedy Onassis

A portrait of Jackie Kennedy as a teenager, and then a lawsuit; then there’s a new biography

A portrait of Jacqueline Bouvier Lee, a.k.a. Jackie Kennedy, depicting her as a teenager, has appeared in a Long Island art gallery and has sparked a federal lawsuit brought by some of her relatives. The relatives say it is stolen. The art gallery owner says it is not and that he has doubts that the […]

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